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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 11, 2019

Jamaican Man Sentenced to Twenty-One Years in Prison for Heading Alien Smuggling Organization from Freeport, Bahamas

Michael Stapleton, 44, of Jamaica, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks to a total of 262 months in prison after having been convicted by a South Florida jury of running an international alien smuggling organization out of Freeport, Bahamas.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, and Thomas G. Martin, Acting Chief Patrol Agent for U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector, made the announcement.

Stapleton was convicted by a federal jury on January 30, 2019, of forty-seven criminal counts related to his involvement in an alien smuggling scheme (Case No 14-CR-80151).  The trial evidence showed that Stapleton was the head of a smuggling organization operating out of Freeport, Bahamas. For several years, he coordinated the smuggling of aliens to the United States through Freeport from around the world. He arranged for them to be hidden in stash houses, hired smuggling captains, and arranged for boats to make crossing from the Bahamas to the United States. Testimony at trial showed he also used the vulnerability of the aliens to exploit them by demanding more money from them after they were in his power, keeping them in deplorable conditions, mistreating them, and sending them out in unsafe boats. In one smuggling venture, the aliens were pushed overboard in rough seas far from the beach, despite some of them not being able to swim. Stapleton was extradited to the United States in 2018.

U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said, “The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to the vigorous prosecution of those individuals who engage in the dangerous and illicit practice of alien smuggling.  Today’s sentencing shows those who plan and commit these crimes while abroad will not have impunity from federal prosecution in the United States but will instead face more than twenty years in prison.”

“These smuggling organizations place no value on human life and are constantly putting people’s lives at risks. Stapleton’s actions clearly proved that,” said Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Miami. “Our goal is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the type of organization that Stapleton headed and we are committed to do everything within our powers to put these individuals behind bars.”

U.S. Border Patrol Miami Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Thomas G. Martin stated, “Smuggling organizations like these pose a great risk.  Without the combined efforts of all law enforcement agencies involved, the actions of Stapleton would continue to endanger migrants’ lives and threaten U.S. border security.”

The Court found that Stapleton was the leader/organizer of the smuggling venture that involved between 20-99 victims, that he created a risk of substantial bodily harm, sexually assaulted two women, and possessed a firearm.  In addition to the term of incarceration, Stapleton was ordered to serve two years of supervised release and pay a special assessment of $4,700. 

U.S. Attorney Fajardo Orshan commended ICE-HSI, along with the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Border Patrol, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Jupiter Police Department, the Juno Beach Police Department, and the Manalapan Police Department, for the investigative assistance provided in support of this matter.  This case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Jones and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Evans.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

Updated July 11, 2019